We just completed a blessed two weeks of evangelism and ministry in Colombia, South America. We flew down to Bogotá on Wednesday, April 6th, after much delay due to mechanical issues with our original plane, and then had a couple of days to recover and prepare. My oldest son Joseph and his friend Justin joined us, flying in from Austin, Texas to take part in the outreaches. On Saturday, April 9th, we had a lovely pancake breakfast at Monte Sion in Chía north of Bogotá, together with the Leon family. He is a pastor from Bogotá and a good friend. We also had other guests join us throughout the day, and then rehearsed that evening for our singing in Briceño on Sunday morning.
On Sunday, April 10, I spoke at the 7 and 10 AM services at Iglesia Clamor de Medianoche in Briceño to the north of Chía. It is a church that is full of life and young people, a special place where Dan Voll and I have preached numerous times before. We sang during both services and then I spoke on the theme, “Biblical Perspectives on Marriage and Family.” We are living in a generation where marriage and children are under increasing attack on all sides—in the world and sadly even in churches. I pointed out that marriage was part of God’s creation from the beginning, and a great gift to men and women—something that no Supreme Court decision, whether American or Colombian, can change. Children themselves are both a heritage from the Lord, and a heritage for the Lord. “Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” When the home is what God intends it to be, it is a place where the children are raised in love and the knowledge of the Lord.
On the other hand, when we turn away from the Lord to follow the world with its convenient but false doctrines, or listen to ministers who tell people what they want to hear rather than the truth, we may well face the same consequences that God warned Israel about when He rebuked their unfaithful priests and prophets by declaring, “The women of My people you cast out from their pleasant houses; from their children you have taken away My glory forever.” After the second service, the pastor declared with sobriety that this was not “a” message for Colombia but “the” message for Colombia, especially at a time when there is so much divorce in the churches, when so many children of believers are going astray, and when so many pastors here are shamelessly involved in divorce, immorality, and scandal.
We had somewhat over 120 people present in the first service, with about 8 praying to receive the Lord, and closer to 200 in the second service, with 12 praying to receive the Lord. In both services, many responded to the second invitation to rise up in the Lord and fight for their marriages and children against all that floods in to destroy both in this generation. Especially after the second service, many couples were praying together, quite a few with tears, and families gathered in circles together praying for one another. I was surprised by how many children thanked me afterwards for the message—not just adults! We were all taken out to lunch by the pastor and his wife afterwards.
Early in the week, we taped a new television broadcast with Oscar Ramirez, host of the Christian television program, Muy Positivo, which will be broadcast nationally on Channel 1 in May. He interviewed Dan Voll and me about my new book, Ven y Sígueme, and its themes regarding discipleship and the restoration of the Biblical church. He invited us to a delicious and almost too generous lunch thereafter.
During the morning of Wednesday, April 13th, we met with the members of the Bogotá Palau Festival committee, and it was a fruitful time. It turns out that Dan and I know personally many of the members of that committee and have even preached in some of their churches. It was also good to meet the rest of the committee as well as a member of the Palau Latin America team that I had not met before. We did learn that much progress is being made on holding a citywide festival in Bogota, though much remains to be done. The leaders present were eager to support such an event and, since Bogotá is both the capital of the country and a city with 9 million people, it is a great place to hold the first major Colombian festival in many years. Luis Palau in fact did his first evangelistic festival here back in 1966!
Wednesday evening (4/13) was the first of three advertised meetings at Iglesia Alianza Con Dios in Bogotá. There were between 80 and 100 present on the first night, and I spoke on the theme of “Becoming Disciples,” as they wanted me to present for two evenings from my book, Ven y Sígueme,” and then to speak on the final evening regarding marriage and the family from the Lord’s perspective. The message was well received, with a number of pastors present in the audience, including the pastor from Ciudad Bolivar where we would be holding an evangelistic outreach on Saturday. About 6 people prayed to receive the Lord, and nearly all of those present responded to the invitation to not simply be believers, but to become active disciples and students of the Word—a great need in Colombia as well as in the United States. There were many afterwards who came up to thank me for the message as well as to ask me to sign the copies of my book that they had bought. All proceeds from Ven y Sígueme stay in Colombia to support the ministry work there, especially since the book was written in response to two prophecies given years ago, one in Bogotá and one in Cali, that the Lord wanted me to write a book for Colombia—teaching about discipleship and the church from a Biblical perspective.
Thursday morning (4/14), we traveled down to the south of Bogotá where we met with nearly forty pastors and leaders from churches in that part of the city, and also with a few leaders from organizations around the country. At their request, I gave a presentation first on what happened in NYC with the 2015 Palau Festival, and then spoke about the upcoming Bogotá Festival in 2017. Finally, I spoke from my book about the church from the Lord’s perspective. Ultimately, the church that really is the church does not belong to us, but Jesus will have His church on His terms at His coming. Now is a time when the churches of Bogotá need to come together as one to grasp this major opportunity to reach all of the city with the Gospel, something that will never happen until believers respond to Jesus’ prayer in John 17 and stand as one for God’s purposes in the city and the nation. Afterwards, many pastors stood up one-by-one to state how strongly they agreed with what I had said, and to declare that they also wanted to be part of the Festival. We encouraged them to be in touch with the Palau Festival Committee to express their support.
On Thursday evening (4/14), I spoke on themes regarding the church from the second half of my book, Ven y Sígueme. This included the five ministries given to build the church, and the preparation of every believer to take their places as functioning members of the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16). A Colombian who had been at a couple of the meetings where I spoke asked to be my translator that evening, and he did an excellent job. Going over my notes in advance of the meeting, he asked some excellent questions about the New Testament church, showing that he really was thinking about the matter. He remarked afterwards that he had learned a great deal that evening. Three people prayed to receive the Lord, and nearly all those present responded to the second invitation, asking the Lord for their places in building the church on its Biblical foundations. Afterwards, the pastor of Iglesia Alianza Con Dios asked how the pastors and churches in the city could move more into the Biblical pattern for God’s church. My response was that the first matter was to begin meeting and praying with others, discussing what the Scriptures say regarding the church and where our current models fall short of what the Lord is looking for.
On Friday night, I spoke on marriage and family from a Biblical perspective to a very receptive audience. Two people prayed to receive the Lord as this was almost an entirely Christian audience for this topic. Dan Voll and I then asked the couples to stand up, to take some time to clear the air of anything that had come between them, and then we prayed for them. Afterwards, the pastor spoke for several minutes, pointing out how important this message was for those present as well as for Colombia. There were many conversations and expressions of gratitude afterwards on this, our last night at Iglesia Alianza Con Dios. There was also a young lady representing a Colombian Christian organization that helps poor and abandoned children in every way they can. She also expressed her gratitude for the messages, having first heard me at the pastors meeting in the south of Bogotá.
On Saturday (4/16), we had a special day of ministry with some of the poorest people in the city of Bogotá. Because of the continuing violence in rural areas of Colombia, people are being driven out of their homes or off of their farms, with no place to go. As a result, they flee to live as squatters on the outskirts of Bogotá and other places where they have some measure of safety and the chance to earn a living. Their homes are pieced together on the sides of the mountains from whatever pieces of cardboard, advertising panels, or wood that they can find. These settlements are often built on unstable ground, with no police presence or services, and with guerrillas moving among them to victimize them. The poor people themselves are often blamed for their own condition as illegals. But in fact, they are the victims of the corruption and violence here, one of the saddest chapters in Colombia’s modern history.
A pastor from the group of ministers I spoke to on Thursday morning was just starting a new church in the middle of one “invasión” (as they call it here) in Ciudad Bolivar, and he invited us to join him for the inaugural service, with me giving the Gospel message. It was a four-hour drive in traffic to the site where we split up into teams to go out among the people, talking with them about the Lord, and inviting them to the meeting that evening. One particularly memorable conversation was between Denise Chen and a family in a cardboard house. She and her Colombian helper gave the Gospel to this family and, when I walked by, the entire family was praying with Denise, several of them in tears. At the meeting itself in the hastily-built church building, made up of poles and metal sheets, we had a full but small house of maybe 25 to 30 people, including a bunch of little children. They had a team of dancers and singers, so we had a lovely time of worship. I even got to start a circle dance with some of the children. I then gave a shorter presentation of the Gospel from John 10, regarding the good shepherd. We quickly discovered that many other people had gathered outside the thin metal walls of the little church, listening to the music and the message. Three or four people inside the church prayed to receive the Lord. All in all, it was a lovely time, though a heart-breaking one as well.
Afterwards, the pastor’s wife told us that she had been suffering from so much pain in her arms that she could only raise them up to the level of her face. But then she testified that, when we prayed at the end of the meeting on Friday night at Iglesia Alianza Con Dios, the Lord had touched her arms and healed her on the spot. She then shot her arms straight up in the air to show us what the Lord had done. I had noticed after the meeting Friday night that she was beaming and had tears streaming down her face, but I had no idea why and did not know then what had happened.
On Sunday morning, April 17th, I spoke at our church at Monte Sion on the theme of marriage and family at the request of those who had heard that message elsewhere earlier in the week. The place was full with standing room only, and we had a time of prayer and repentance afterwards. That afternoon, two young men were baptized and then we all ate ajiaco, a famous dish from the Bogotá region.
On Monday, April 18th, we had lunch with a group of believers in Bogotá, and then had a long talk afterwards with a young man who had left the Jehovah’s Witnesses and then gotten involved with leftists and guerillas in the city. He stayed with them only for a season because he quickly realized that, though they preached and demonstrated for freedom, these people themselves were slaves to drugs and alcohol. We ended up being able to present the Gospel to him, talking about the heart of Christianity not being religion, but a personal relationship with Jesus. It was pretty clear that he had never heard such things before, and he is definitely someone to pray for. When we were flying back home on Wednesday, April 20th, we had a similar time with another young man who was returning from doing social work in Colombia. He had also never previously heard the simple Gospel of salvation in Christ.
Truly God is good, and it is a great privilege to serve Him!